The average little person will walk between 12 and 18 months of age. Don't be alarmed if it takes a bit more time, and try not to compare your child or children. Everyone is a little different. It also takes about six months to perfect the skill of walking. Initially, your toddler will crash into everything. They may use additional muscles to help with balance. Don't be surprised if their eyeballs look larger, their arms stick out in funny positions or they briefly stop talking when they try to walk. As they practice and get more confident, their arms will relax, they won't fall every two steps and they'll start screaming again! They will challenge their balance by walking on different surfaces (such as gravel, mulch, slopes and those scary moving bridges at your local playground) and attempting to kick a ball. Some toddlers will try to jump, either in place or off a small step around age two.
Children under age two should not sit for more than 30 minutes at a time. Sometimes our expectations are unrealistic and we forget what's normal. Toddlers shouldn't sit because they learn through movement, manipulation and exploration. They learn about size and shape by fitting into one cardboard box but not another. They learn about dizziness by spinning in circles and about balance by kicking a ball. That time my daughter ripped up an entire roll of toilet paper, stuffed it into the toilet and then took it back out? She was learning.
Here are some tips to promote motor development (and learning) in toddlers:
Lead by example. Even one-year-olds learn by example. Making physical activity part of your child's daily routine teaches them that movement, exercise and health is a valued part of the day, just like brushing your teeth or eating green vegetables. If you do an exercise or yoga video, encourage your toddler to participate. Walk or bike as a family. Get them involved.
Describe your child's actions. Movement is one of the earliest forms of communication. A typical toddler will grab your hand, take you somewhere and point out what they want. They express their thoughts and feelings through movement. When you describe a child's actions ("You're shaking your body." or "Now you're bobbing your head up and down."), they not only learn new words - they also feel pride at being noticed.
Go to the park. It's a toddler's dream! Let your toddler walk on different surfaces, climb up and down a ramp, explore the moveable bridge, swing and slide. Provide close supervision, but allow for a few challenging situations. Again, movement builds strength, agility, problem solving skills and self confidence.
Incorporate movement into your daily routines, especially if you don't have much time after work or it's dreary and cold outside. Turn off the television, turn up the music and have a dance party while you clean off the dinner table. Or just have a dance party and forget the dishes. Play basketball with your socks while you fold the laundry. Park a little further from the front door or take the stairs wherever you go.
Think simply. You don't need expensive, computerized toys. Start at your local Dollar Store. They carry cheap balls, hula hoops, jump ropes and tiny trash cans that work great as baskets for basketball. Use simple household objects to challenge your child's motor skills, and keep them entertained in a safe environment. Climb in and out of a laundry basket. Bounce on an old air mattress. Step across a bridge of pillows or climb through a suspended hula hoop.
Good luck and enjoy!